Garden centres set to test trading rule

Retailers reveal plans to open on Easter holiday despite law stating that doors must stay closed.

The Garden Centre Group (GCG) and several other garden centres will open parts of their stores on Easter Sunday (24 April), testing Sunday trading laws.

A GCG representative said the company's 1.5 million members would be able to browse and use the restaurants at 73 centres, as they did last year for the first time.

Other centres also plan to open, potentially testing trading laws that stipulate stores of more than 280sq m must not open on Easter Sunday.

Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper said: "We will be opening our restaurants as normal on Easter Sunday, which applies to those restaurants that have a separate entrance and exit option to the main garden centre."

Hillier managing director Andy McIndoe added: "It (whether we open) depends on the views of the local authority. If it is okay, we will open the planteria and/or cafe, as long as there is no access through the shop. If in doubt, we close."

McIndoe said seven of Hillier's 13 planterias would be open, as well as two coffee shops.

Stewarts Gardenlands managing director Martin Stewart said: "This is potentially the biggest day of the year and we have to close on it. On Mother's Day the atmosphere was incredible and the same would apply on Easter Sunday. People still turn up 15 years after the law changed. It's so annoying."

TRADING - THE LAW

Store operators who break the 1994 Sunday Trading Act face fines of up to £50,000. Large shops over 280sq m can open on Sunday for six hours but not at all on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day. Pubs and cafes are allowed to open.

INDUSTRY REACTION

Gary Carvosso, managing director, Coolings

"We open at the Gardener's Garden Centre on Rushmore Hill because that's where we grow than more than 50 per cent of our plants. This 'farm shop' treatment also means we can open for longer hours on a Sunday. In reality we don't because customers would not expect us to be open beyond 4.30pm. Green & Pleasant will not open on Easter Sunday. We believe our local authority would take a keen interest."

Andy McIndoe, managing director, Hillier

"Personally, I would be very happy if everyone sang from the same hymn sheet - whatever their denomination. If they all closed that would be fine, but it's very much left to the opinion and interpretation of the local authority. Last year one told us: 'Do what you like.' Another nearby was insistent it was absolutely against the law and under no account were we to open. Opinion continues to be divided."

Alan Roper, managing director, Blue Diamond

"Garden centres need to be exempt. Customers demand that we open on Easter Sunday because it's a key gardening week, but it needs to be an even playing field for other retailers that cannot open. Garden centres now retail significant volumes of non-gardening products, which competes with general retailers - they would be disadvantaged if we sold these on an Easter Sunday."


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